Joint Task Force North is the 'poster child' for a military unit, its general says

By Dave Burge, El Paso Times | Sept. 7, 2017

FORT BLISS, Texas — (Sept. 4, 2017) -- The commanding general of Joint Task Force North has just a single regret as he looks back on his two-year tenure at Fort Bliss.

“The only thing I’m sad about is I don’t have more time with it,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt S. Crytzer.

Crytzer has led Joint Task Force North since October 2015. He will relinquish the joint command at 9 a.m. Sept. 29 at its headquarters, 11603 Old Ironsides Drive.

He will be succeeded by Brig. Gen. Laura L. Yeager, who most recently served as the director of the Joint Staff with the California National Guard in Sacramento. Yeager will be the first female commander of JTF North in its 28-year history.

Crytzer, a Special Forces officer, said leading Joint Task Force North has been one of the most rewarding assignments of his career. His next job has not been determined yet.

“This is a wonderful command,” said Crytzer, a 53-year-old from Natrona Heights, Pa. “If the Army or military wants a poster child of how to do things right, they can look at this unit. It’s not because of me, but the spirit of this unit.”

Crytzer has led about 150 service members of all branches and civilian employees who provide Department of Defense support to federal law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations. Joint Task Force North does not conduct law enforcement activities such as immigration enforcement.

“It is a highly professional unit with amazing people working here,” Crytzer said.

 “We have seen the impact on our citizens of the opioid epidemic,” he said. “Being able to help law enforcement agencies that are trying to put a dent in that is a very relevant mission.”

Crytzer also said it has been incredibly rewarding to work with the National Guard from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas and with law enforcement agencies such as the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.

“I have learned so much from them and gained so much respect for them,” Crytzer said.

Crytzer has also traveled along the entire Southwest border with Mexico.

“I have been in boats, aircraft, tunnels, talked to subject matter experts over and over again about their challenges,” he said.

“The other thing I have learned and this has been very rewarding: I have come to understand the complexity of the border," Crytzer added. "I have learned that if you have seen one sector of the Southwest border, you have seen one sector. They are all different and all come with different challenges.”

Crytzer and his wife, Simone, have also enjoyed El Paso and discovering its “hidden gems,” including its many wonderful restaurants, he said.

They have traveled extensively throughout the area when they have had free time and visited places like White Sands National Monument, Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, Truth or Consequences, Valley of the Fires in Carrizozo, N.M., and Tombstone, Ariz.

“The community is really supportive of this unit and the military in general,” Crytzer said. “We have made lifelong friends here. It won’t be the last time you see the Crytzers in El Paso. We love the place.”

Crytzer and his wife plan to take some leave time, travel and visit friends and family.

Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Dotson, the senior enlisted leader for Joint Task Force North, called Crytzer a “phenomenal boss and leader” and the “epitome” for how a general should conduct himself.